Opinion

Fight for your family planning rights | Amy Johnson

Last Monday found me on a bus to Olympia to lobby against proposed family planning cuts in the state budget and for reproductive parity.

With about 200 other people from all over Washington, I gathered at United Churches in Olympia and walked to a rally on the capitol steps, then to appointments with legislators about these important issues.

As we divided into legislative districts, I found that there were only two of us from the 30th District: myself and retired United Methodist pastor, Rev. Kathryn Everett. With her collar and my cross, we represented not only the 30th Legislative District, but also women who are Christian and passionate about women’s health care rights and equality.

Rev. Everett and I quickly bonded over our experiences as progressive women of faith. We enthusiastically headed off to visit the offices of Sen. Tracey Eide and Reps. Mark Miloscia and Katrina Asay.

Family planning in Washington has already been cut by $3.55 million over the past three years. Eight clinics have closed their doors, with each of them serving 1,450 people annually. Do the math. That’s nearly 12,000 people who have less or no access to affordable family planning. Now consider that for some women, family planning provides their only health care, and the numbers speak even louder.

Family planning services encompass contraception, screenings for breast and cervical cancer, disease prevention and intervention, and more. A few months ago, the American Cancer Society reported that although the overall number of deaths due to breast cancer is declining, poor women are the most likely to die of the disease due to less access to screening and treatment — screening and treatment they don’t get when clinics close due to lack of funding.

We also know from careful tracking that for each family planning dollar cut, the state ends up spending over four dollars — within the same year. The proposed $1.8 million cut to family planning will cost more than $7 million, which we will begin to feel by the end of 2012.

Why? One reason is that Medicaid costs rise as pregnancy rates increase. This short-sighted reduction in funds puts a much larger burden on taxpayers and families. It doesn’t make any sense to implement a supposed cut that will quickly cost us so much and further drain an already overburdened system.

I feel a responsibility to use my voice to help speak for those women who have lost access to services. Many women don’t feel their voices are heard by decision-makers. And why would they? Though we vote over and over to grant women reproductive health care rights, legislation gets proposed over and over to take those away.

Even if you and I differ on certain aspects of these issues, certainly we can agree that costing the state more money, especially in the current climate, is not a good idea. I hope we can also agree that prevention is always better than any of the options available for an unintended pregnancy, and that women deserve breast cancer screenings, pap smears and other health care.

What can you do about it?  Call your legislators today at (800) 562-6000. Tell them not to make any more cuts to family planning in Washington. Tell them that you don’t want them to balance the budget on the backs of poor women. It’ll only take a few minutes. As for you, it’s like eating your vegetables: you’ll feel better after you do it, and you’ll be helping not only yourself, but also a lot of women in Washington, stay much more healthy.

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